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AG Schneiderman probes FCC process to end ‘net neutrality’

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing back

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing back on the FCC's bid to end net neutrality. Credit: Jeff Bachner

ALBANY — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he suspects the Trump administration’s push to deregulate internet service and end net neutrality is being bolstered by thousands of bogus online comments.

The Democrat this week also accused the Republican administration of refusing to provide basic data needed to more fully investigate what Schneiderman calls theft of New Yorkers’ identities to make fake statements on the issue to the Federal Communications Commission.

He said tens of thousands of New Yorkers and hundreds of thousands of Americans may have had their identities misused and attached to comments as the FCC considers approval of the new rule.

But FCC spokesman Brian Hart said, “This so-called investigation is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama administration’s heavy-handed Internet regulations to gain publicity for himself.” Hart said the FCC’s decision will be based on facts, not swayed by repetitive letters simply stating opinions.

At issue are rules set by the Democratic Obama administration two years ago to preserve an open and free internet for large and small websites to operate on an equal footing in terms of speed of use and access. Under President Barack Obama’s rule, broadband internet service companies are prohibited from creating a faster service to handle some apps and their own online content at higher cost, leaving slower service for those who can’t afford it.

Supporters of the measure, including communications companies Verizon and AT&T, argue that internet service providers now are discouraged financially from improving service. An end to net neutrality would raise capital to make internet service faster and more efficient for all, according to the Federal Communication Commission.

The FCC said the proposal is a return to the “light-touch regulatory framework under which a free and open Internet flourished for almost 20 years.” The new rule “strives to advance the FCC’s critical work to promote broadband deployment in rural America and infrastructure investment throughout the nation, to brighten the future of innovation both within networks and at their edge, and to close the digital divide,” according to the FCC.

Schneiderman aimed his latest attack on a Trump policy at this proposed change. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans likely were victimized during the FCC’s public comment process on net neutrality,” said Schneiderman. “That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale.”

“In an era where foreign governments have indisputably tried to use the Internet and social media to influence our elections, federal and state governments should be working together to ensure that malevolent actors cannot subvert our administrative agencies’ decision-making processes,” Schneiderman wrote in a letter to the FCC.

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